The Future of the Army - Today, Tomorrow, and the Day After Tomorrow
David Barno and Nora Bensahel
Last Update: 2017-04-01
Five Sentence Abstract:
The Army has a reduced budget (reduced increases?) and has to do more (why?) with its limited resources. The first step should be to shut down unneeded bases and move toward a "build as needed" force that can be ad hoc constructed from larger formations, bringing only the required skills with a limited and mobile footprint. More resources should be stashed around the world in supply depots and on ships; the ones that were deployed have been drawn down. More long term goals include transforming the Army culture away from bureaucratic micromanaging practices and towards reinstating authority to adaptable leaders on the ground. Finally the Army should embrace technology like AI, robots, and drones while simultaneously shoring up the Army's ability to function in a degraded electronic environment with such, nearly lost, skills as navigating with a map and compass.
An interesting opinion of how the future Army might look. There is a lot of
misleading information. The budgetary "declines" and how Arab Spring was
supposed to be a good thing for the ME. A good destabilizing event sure, but...
Lots of mention of terrorists and boogie men. MIC gonna MIC I guess. I was
surprised to see the author detailing how poor Army navigation skills are in
the face of GPS and like ilk even though they understand how a "real" opponent
would almost certainly degrade the C4I (tech, nav, comms, etc) systems.
Directed energy weapons, solar power, AI (in the command center), and
drones/robots all seem pretty straightforward.
The authors cite themselves extensively.
// pdf page numbers
Threats have burgeoned in the last five years as great power politics have
reasserted themselves, global terrorism and extremism is on the rise, and
turmoil in the Middle East has replaced the hopes of the Arab Spring. The world
has become a much more dangerous place.
// Turmoil = disruption via MIC
// hopes of Arab Spring = turmoil
We have one overriding goal: to ensure that the US Army remains the
preeminent fighting force in the world for the remainder of this century.
Since the Army today is based almost entirely at home, it needs to reinvest
in prepositioned overseas combat stocks; prepare to fight for overseas staging
areas; improve strategic mobility exercises; and press to station more forces
Master urban operations. More than half of the world’s population already
lives in urban areas, and that percentage will only increase in the coming
decades. In order to prepare for this challenging operational environment, the
Army should designate units to specialize in urban operations and improve
training for large-scale urban combat. //2020-2025
Prepare for the next big war. The Army needs
to upgrade, access, and prepare to employ surplus weaponry; plan to control
large areas and populations; rebuild resilience in the force; and plan for unit
Transform Army culture. Effective adaptability will require the Army to
accept more risk; reinstitute “power down;” decrease tolerance of bureaucracy;
reduce excessive deference to rank and position; reject Army
anti-intellectualism; and strengthen ethics and integrity.
Embrace advanced technologies and experimentation. This includes enabling
greater experimentation in operational units; building training around virtual
reality and its successors; integrating battlefield robotics and artificial
intelligence into the close fight; building new battle staff processes around
artificial intelligence; and investing in advanced technologies for power and
aggressiveness of a resurgent Russia and a rising China threaten US
allies in both Europe and the Pacific. The emergence of the Islamic State of
Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) as a pressing international terror threat has eclipsed
al- Qaeda in danger and lethal effectiveness.
// Russia should stop being encircled by NATO, NATO
shouldn't stop encircling Russia.
// The now-2045 timeline, divided into 3 parts, all
1. THE ARMY’S WORLD IN 2016
Global instability is on the rise, and regional powers such as Iran and North
Korea, whose interests are inimical to the United States, continue to demand
the attention of the US military.
// The US demands the kowtowing of N. Korean and
the August 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and its sequestration mechanism
limited the resources that would be available to DOD for the following decade.
// This only stopped (reduced?) future increases, no
resources were removed.
The BCA’s mandated budget caps and sequestration took effect on January 1,
2013, which required DOD to cut approximately $500 billion from its planned
base budget through the next ten years.5 Congress has increased the BCA’s
mandated spending caps twice, but the resulting budgets have still fallen short
of planned levels.6
// I was PLANNING to spend 10 trillion dollars, if someone
would give it to me... BTW we actually had 2 budget increases under
// The authors (David Barno and Nora Bensahel) cite their
The major problem, however, is that growing internal
Russia’s surprise annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and promotion of
separatist movements in eastern Ukraine posed an unexpected challenge to the
United States and a direct threat to its NATO allies.
// Didn't Crimea vote to join Russia?
China has become increasingly aggressive in the South China Sea. Its many
provocative actions have included landing military jets on newly created
artificial islands and harassing ships with its maritime militia. 10
// How dare China build and use artificial islands! Once
again the authors cite themselves.
[ISIS arrives on the scene in] August 2014 when it released an extremely
graphic video of the beheading of James Foley, a US citizen whom it was holding
// The video does NOT show a beheading. Fade to black
before any blood, then a poorly faked body and head (again with no blood) are
The increased globalization of technology and communications means that for
the first time in history, terrorist groups and malevolent individuals can
reach the United States from almost any part of the world—as was seen all too
clearly on 9/11, and reinforced by the recent terror attacks in Paris,
Brussels, San Bernardino, and Orlando.
// Wasn't 9/11 done with box cutter technology? Bombs and
guns are new tech?
In many ways, the United States has entered an era of
perpetual war,17 since it will have to continue addressing the various
manifestations of this threat for years and probably decades to come.
// Entered an era of perpetual war? USA has been at war
since the beginning.
must simultaneously maintain its already numerous global commitments, for
which 186,000 soldiers are currently deployed in 140
locations around the world.19
// World cop...
peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and the
// Do as we say, or we'll "keep the peace".
Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley recently testified to Congress that
the total Army of 980,000 soldiers is operating at “high military risk,” and
that the Army would need around 1.2 million soldiers “in order to reduce to
significant or moderate risk.”20
the Army will continue to operate its 1980s-era M1 tanks, M2/3 Bradley
fighting vehicles, and numerous other aging weapons systems until nearly
mid-century. Even with all the upgrades and improvements to these systems over
the past decades, they are reaching the end of their effective service life and
are losing their ability to overmatch ever-more capable
// What systems do ISIS/terrorists have? Russia sure, but
again Russia isn't surrounding NATO...
Throughout most of the nation’s history, war and peace were binary
conditions.35 The United States went to war, in World War II or Korea or even
Vietnam, and came home to relative peacetime once those wars reached a clear
end. That is no longer true. After fifteen years, the wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq are still continuing today (though in different forms and with fewer
// It is easier to have endless war when your enemy is the
boogie man, I mean terrorists. The authors once again cite themselves.
[In the peacetime after each previous war] Even
though the Army often did not predict the next war correctly, that
period of time, reflection, and investment helped make it more of ready to
adapt to the next set of challenges it faced.
// We've got the predictions right this time, out to 2045
Save a major strategic shift after the presidential election, the US will
continue to be a global leader with major international security
// Responsibility to whom?
defending US vital interests around the world
and maintaining an open global order.
Unless there is a massive international crisis or a
direct attack on the United crisis States, the defense budget will
remain capped by the BCA with little prospect for substantial growth,
// PNAC said the same thing months before 9/11...
2. THE ARMY TODAY: 2016-2020
if the mobilization policy for units from the Reserve Component were to
change, for example, from one year available to deploy for every five at home
(1:5) to one year available for every four at home (1:4), the number of
National Guard units available to deploy would increase by approximately 15
The Army National Guard is already planning to establish eleven Cyber
Protection Teams (CPTs) spread across twenty-four states by 2019, which will
help prevent and respond to cyber incidents on DOD and government networks.60
the Army should undertake wargames and exercises to validate its ability to
both respond to weapons of mass destruction and the breakdown of civil order in the United States for
worst- case scenarios.
An extensive breakdown of utilities, the large-scale disruption of civil
order, or mass civilian casualties would almost
certainly engage much of the Army in providing extensive support to civil
authorities throughout the country.
There is no backstop for the nation if the Army cannot successfully fight a
major war when such a conflict erupts.
// Something about a gun behind every blade of
The Army and the other services now rely almost entirely on space- based
position, navigation, and timing (PNT) support for most essential battlefield
tasks. // C4I tech.
C4I stands for command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence.
Basic leader courses must continue to emphasize navigating with maps and
compasses, communicating by radio, and exercising command and control using
pens, map overlays, and even messengers to backstop what could be debilitating
- almost 80 percent of Army headquarters do not contribute directly to wartime
- // Need to take advantage of IT/automation.
The Army should also identify what civilian talents
and capabilities it might want to rapidly access if the Selective Service were
to institute a draft. These might include computer coders, social media gurus, linguists, and financial
experts, in addition to more traditional demands for soldiers to fill
infantry, armor, or artillery units. 100
Barno and Nora Bensahel, “Why We Still Need the Draft,” War on the Rocks,
February 23, 2016 David Wood, “Uncle Sam Needs Coders. Here’s How
the Military Could Draft Them,” Huffington Post, May 10, 2016,
3. THE ARMY OF TOMORROW: 2020-2025
Today’s world of haves and have nots will be greatly magnified, with those
fortunate enough to have employment and access to stunning technology living in
stark contrast to the hundreds of millions struggling to survive in disrupted
// 80% of world slated to have smart phone by 2025.
Army leaders must start publicly making the case for why more Army units need
to be permanently stationed overseas in places beyond Eastern Europe.
By 2030, over 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas,
The Army must significantly improve its capabilities for urban offense,
defense, mobility, and protection, so that it can operate effectively in
densely packed metropolitan areas where civilian populations are a part of the
These missions may often resemble the “three block
war” that Marine General 116Charles Krulak famously described, where
forces may fight, conduct peacekeeping, and provide humanitarian aid on
adjacent city blocks—all under the scrutiny of international media, and now
among a social-networked populace.
holding tactical exercises without troops for leaders in large urban areas,
118 conducting map exercises overlaid on actual cities, and possibly even
conducting full scale exercises in abandoned parts of big cities.
118 Tactical exercises without troops (TEWTs) were held in real cities
during the Cold War. They helped Army leaders, who were often wearing civilian
clothes, think through how large formations would conduct combat operations in
such complex terrain. For more on TEWTs, see Headquarters, Department of the
Army, Field Manual 25-4: How to Conduct Training Exercises, September 10, 1984,
The Army must also invest more heavily in technological solutions to this
problem, especially in virtual reality gaming that replicates the high stress
demands of operating in densely populated areas. It should develop
sophisticated urban simulations for full-scale unit training exercises to
compensate for the inability to conduct large physical exercises. Artificial
intelligence can also help replicate the behavior of leaders, factions, and the
general population of a virtual city in order to better challenge units with
the scope and complexity of large-scale urban operations.
US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan included no more than 171,000
troops and 100,000 troops respectively. 120 Compare that with the more than
537,000 US troops deployed at the height of the Vietnam War121—which was
considered a small-scale, limited conflict at the time.
- Plan to Control Large Areas and Populations
- The Army’s “Big Five” weapons systems were first fielded during the 1980s
defense buildup. 131 Upgraded versions of each of those weapons—the M1 tank,
the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, and the
Patriot air defense system—still constitute the core of the Army’s combat
capabilities today. And because of the Army’s many modernization failures
(discussed in chapter two), no replacements are currently programmed for any of
these systems. That means that most or all of them will remain in service
through 2030 and beyond.
4. THE ARMY OF THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW: 2025-2040+
Making linear projections based on the current environment will be useless at
best and dangerous at worst, since the world order may be dominated by major
factors whose outlines are only faint glimmers now. US global power will almost
certainly decline in relative terms, and perhaps also in absolute terms, as the
last bits of the post-World War II Pax Americana recede into history. Yet, the
United States will still play an essential role—and possibly an even more
important role—in maintaining an open international
Many positive trends will improve broad aspects of the human condition in
// Maybe 70 hour work weeks and virtual reality?
By 2040, the world population will be continuing its inexorable march toward
ten billion people. 146
// So says the U.N., but many populations are on the SHARP
decline already. See: importation of migrants to Europe and USA to support the
economics of declining demographics. Also, Japan...
// Climate change.. cities underwater.. migrants..
// 3D printing, artificial intelligence, crowdsourcing,
robots, = less need to work, but also talks about a poor economy. Again, still
waiting for that 20 hour work week and Jetson's lifestyle always riiiight
around the corner.
- // After telling me he doesn't know what the future will
hold by 2040, the author then describes, in great detail, how the world will be
- // Micromanaging kills moral and effectiveness. If C4I
(fancy comms, gps, etc) were lost, the junior leaders would fail. Needs to
reimplement "power down", giving more authority to NCOs and the like.
A 2015 study by two highly respected Army War College
professors found that it was “literally impossible” for Army officers to meet
all the requirements imposed on them by higher headquarters, yet also found
that failing to meet those same requirements was professionally unacceptable.
170 The result is a pattern of pervasive dishonesty, false reporting, and
widespread rationalization of cheating in order to meet unachievable service
requirements. This situation is unacceptable in a professional force that
holds itself to the highest standards of conduct and accountability. It
shatters trust between seniors and subordinates by condoning an environment of
// This is the same thing we see in the broader society,
and possibly world, lie, cheat, and steal to "win".
Smaller units with reduced electronic and physical signatures and that can
move rapidly from place to place will be better able to avoid detection and
The lines between military and civilian, active and reserves, volunteers and
retirees need to become far more blurred.
By 2040, Army personnel should be able to step in and out of the force at
different times in their careers or personal lives. A
computer coder, for example, might choose to serve on active duty for three
years after college, revert to the IRR during the next few years while gaining
valuable experience among the private sector, and later shift to active drill
status to serve as a military cyber-warrior several nights a week while
building a new technology startup.
The Army should invest in building this technology [virtual reality] as the
backbone of its individual, unit, and staff training models as soon as
In the next decade and beyond, however, smart robots empowered by AI will be
able to serve as capable partners to soldiers engaged in the dangerous close
Entirely new battle staff processes could be designed around AI capabilities,
removing people and time from analysis and course of action formulation.
- Directed energy (DE) weapons, by contrast, would provide a nearly
inexhaustible source of ammunition and so would slash resupply requirements.
The Army is currently deploying limited numbers of DE weapons to defend against
drones and incoming rockets, artillery, and mortars. 187